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Message of President Davis

The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1102, p. 145.

August 10, 1861

The Confederate Congress has assembled at Richmond, and a telegram from that place, received in the Northern States viâ New Orleans, gives the following summary of President Davis's Message:—

Mr. Davis states that his Inaugural called attention to the causes which formed the Confederacy, and that it is now only necessary to call attention to such facts as have occurred during the recess, and to matters connected with the public defence. He congratulates Congress on the accession to the Confederacy of other equal Sovereign States. It was deemed advisable to remove the archives of the several departments to Richmond, to which place Congress had already removed the seat of Government.

The aggressive movements of the enemy have induced prompt and energetic action. The accumulation of the enemy's forces on the Potomac has sufficiently demonstrated that his efforts are directed against Virginia, and from no point could the necessary measures for her protection be so efficiently directed as from our capital. The rapid progress of the last few months has stripped the veil behind which the true policy and purposes of Mr. Lincoln's Government had been previously concealed, and they were now fully revealed.

The Message of their President, the action of their Congress during its present Session, confess the intention of subjugating the seceded States by war, a folly which is only equalled by its wickedness—a war by which it is impossible to attain the proposed result. Whilst its dire calamities cannot be avoided by us, they will fall with redoubled severity on themselves.

Commencing in March last with an affectation of ignorance of the secession of the seven States which organised the Confederate Government, persisting in April in absurd assumptions of the existence of a riot which was to be dispersed by posse comitatus, continuing in successive months false representations that the States intended offensive war in spite of conclusive evidence to the contrary, furnished as well by official action as by the basis of the Constitution, the President of the United States succeeded in deluding the people of those States into the belief that the purpose of this Government was not peace at home, but conquest abroad; not the defence of their liberties, but the subjugation of the people of the United States.

The series of manoeuvres by which the impression was created, the acts by which they were devised, and the perfidy by which they were executed, are already known. Could it be supposed they would make openly their success a subject of boast and self-laudation in the Executive Message?

Fortunately for truth, Mr. Lincoln's Message minutely details the attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter in violation of the armistice of which he confesses to have been informed only by rumour too vague and uncertain to create any attention. Hostile attempts to supply Fort Sumter are admitted to have been undertaken with a knowledge that their success was impossible. The sending a notice to the Governor of South Carolina of the intended ruse for the accomplishment of this object, and quoting from the Inaugural that there would be no conflict unless these States were the aggressors, and proceeding to declare that his conduct, as in the past will be for the future, was in the performance of this promise, which could not be misunderstood. In defiance of our statement that he gave notice of the approach of a hostile fleet, he charges these States with being the assailants of the Union. The world cannot misunderstand this unfounded pretence.

Mr. Lincoln expresses concern that some foreign nations have so shaped their action as if they supposed the early destruction of the Union probable. He abandons further disguise, and proposes to make the contest short and decisive, and confesses that even an increased force is demanded. These enormous preparations are a distinct avowal that the United States are engaged in a conflict with a great and powerful nation, and are compelled to abandon the pretence of dispersing rioters and suppressing insurrection, and are driven to the acknowledgment that the Union is dissolved. They recognise the separate existence of the Confederate States by indirection, by embargo, and blockade, by which all communication between the two is cut off. They repudiate the foolish idea that the inhabitants of the Confederacy are still citizens of the United States, for they are now waging an indiscriminate war upon them with a savage ferocity unknown to modern civilisation. Mr. Davis then compares the present invasion to that of Great Britain in 1781, but which was conducted in a more civilised manner. Mankind will shudder at the outrages committed on defenceless females by those pretending to be our fellow-citizens. Who will depict the horror with which they will regard the deliberate malignity which, under pretext of suppressing an insurrection, makes special war upon sick women and children by carefully-devised measures to prevent their obtaining medicines necessary to their cure? The sacred claims of humanity, respected by all nations, even in the fury of battle, by careful deviation of attack from hospitals, are now outraged by the Government which pretends a desire to continue a fraternal connection. Such outrages admit of no retaliation unless the actual perpetrators are required. Taylor's mission to Washington was to propose an exchange of prisoners taken on the privateer Savannah, and to inform Mr. Lincoln that we are determined to check all barbarities on prisoners of war by such retaliation as will effectually put an end to such practices. Mr. Lincoln's promised reply has not yet been received. Reference is made to the peculiar position existing between the Confederate Government and the States, usually termed Border Slave States, which, the Message says, cannot be properly withheld from notice. Our people are animated by the sentiments towards the inhabitants of those States which found expression in your enactment refusing to consider them enemies or to authorise hostilities against them. That a large portion of those States regard us as brethern, and, if unrestrained by the actual presence of large armies, the subversion of the civil authority and declaration of martial law, would, some of them at least, joyfully unite with us. But that they are with almost entire unanimity opposed to the prosecution of the war waged against us is a fact of which daily-recurring events warrant the assertion. The President of the United States, in refusing to recognise the right of those of our late sister States refraining from an attack upon us, justifies his refusal by the assertion that the States have no other power than that reserved to them in the Union by the Constitution. This new constitutional relation between the States and the general Government is a fitting introduction to another assertion of the Message—that the Executive possesses the power of suspending the writ of habeas corpus and of delegating that power to military commanders at discretion. Both these propositions claim respect equal to that which is felt for an additional statement of opinion in the same paper, that it is proper, in order to execute the laws, that the single law made to meet the extreme tenderness of citizens for liberty, that practically it relieves more of the guilty than of the innocent, should to a very limited extent be violated. We may well rejoice that we have for ever severed our connection with a Government that thus tramples upon all principles of constitutional liberty, and with a people in whose presence such avowals could be paraded.

Our operations in the field were greatly extended by reason of this policy, which, heretofore secretly entertained, is now avowed and acted upon by the United States. The forces hitherto raised have proved ample for the defence of the States which originally organised the Confederacy. With the exception of these fortified islands, whose defence is effectively aided by a preponderation of naval force, the enemy has been driven—completely driven—out of those States. These forces must, however, necessarily prove inadequate on account of the invasion by half a million of men now proposed by the enemy-and a corresponding increase of our forces now becomes necessary.

The Message refers to the crops, which are the most abundant in our history. Many believe the supply adequate to two years' consumption. Our citizens manifest a laudable pride in upholding their independence unaided by any resources other than their own; and the subscript ons [sic] to the loan proposed by the Government cannot fall short of fifty million dollars, and will probably largely exceed that sum.

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